I love New Jersey. I love its fresh produce, its sandy boardwalks and its gas station attendants (you try pumping your own gas on a January morning in Michigan!) Yet, there’s one thing, I just can’t get used to – jug handles! Despite my very best efforts, I am continuously bested by this driving hazard. My poor sense of direction did not suddenly develop in New Jersey. It began 21 years ago when I was a camper at adventure camp in Northern Michigan.
After two months of survival skill training, our camp counselor took us deep into the woods for a final test. She handed us a shiny new compass and instructed us to return to base camp before nightfall. At the beginning of the day I felt pretty confident but, by mid-afternoon, I was lost. When the sun began to set, I had wandered so far off course, I saw signs pointing to the local prison up ahead!
Many of our churches are not unlike that nine-year-old camper. We have access to the very best tools and have the very best intentions and yet, often find ourselves off-base from meaningful and relevant mission ministry.
If you share this challenge in ministry today, you can be encouraged! Rerouting your mission ministry to a meaningful and relevant destination begins by posing three powerful questions:
- Have we been transformed? Meaningful mission ministry is not simply something we do but, it is a byproduct of who we are. Jesus’ mission to our hearts transformed us into His followers. To be effective missional leaders we must be transformed to transform! Or in other words, we must be full of fresh fire or continuously connecting to God lest we fail to authentically connect with God’s people.
- Who is leading us? The composition of our leadership has direct impact on our ability to be relevant in mission ministry. Every community is full of diversity in age, ethnicity, language, education, socioeconomic status and lifestyle. If we are to design meaningful and relevant mission experiences we must glean from a wide breadth life experiences. Leadership teams that lack variety in viewpoint will find themselves hitting dead-ends while on the road to God’s mission.
- How do we know the mission was accomplished? Often we measure success in ministry based on whether it is a reflection of what we’ve done in the previous years. Setting such a baseline of success limits our vision and caps God’s capability in our ministry. Furthermore the terrain of the mission field shifts so frequently that success in years past simply does not translate to what’s happening now. Instead, boldly vision mission ministry with a God-sized view that calls your service out of the familiar and into the faith-filled.
As you pose these questions and move mission forward in your community you will run into some detours. But, keep praying, keep serving and keep moving. There’s always a New Jersey jug handle up ahead!